Monday, July 23, 2012

Barn Quilts

I am sure most of you have seen barn quilts on your travels.  When we travel through Iowa, it is one of my favorite things to do...look for the barn quilts.  If I still lived on the farm, I would have quilt block on my barn.  But what block would I choose????

Today, I have a treat for you...a guest blogger!  My guest is Suzi Parron from Stone Mountain, Georgia.  She has co-authored with Donna Sue Groves a new book featuring Barn Quilts across the United States. 

Sharon, thanks for inviting me to your blog today.

I was in Missouri for the first time recently—Hatton, to be exact—to share the story of barn quilts with a group of interested folks in the area. On the way to a terrific farm-to-table benefit dinner, we stopped to see this Farmer’s Daughter block. Just picture perfect!

Some of you may not be familiar with barn quilts; they are quilt blocks painted on plywood and hung on barns and other buildings for passersby to enjoy. There are over 4000 of them in 46 states!

I am not a quilter of any renown, but when I stumbled upon this barn near Cadiz, Kentucky, four years ago, I recognized the Flying Geese pattern.

The owners told me that barn quilts are a way of publicly honoring quilters and the generations of women who worked on family farms, as well as a means of bringing a community together to celebrate their heritage.

Soon, I was hooked and began traveling the country, gathering the stories of barn quilts. I was blessed to be chosen by Donna Sue Groves, who founded the barn quilt movement to honor her mother’s quilting art, to tell the story of how the quilt trail began in 2001 in Ohio and spread throughout the country.

I love this photo of a block called Pappy’s Pride, in Marion, Kentucky. The farm has been in the Miles family for a couple of generations, and as you can see the barn is still in use to dry the tobacco crop.

One of my favorite barn quilt stories came about when Donna Sue sent me an article that featured this barn. She called it “elegant,” and I have to agree. Margaret Shipler, who was 83 at the time, painted these quilts in honor of her husband shortly after he passed away. She chose the simple patterns that he loved in her quilts and the patriotic colors that reflected his military service. What really struck me was the sashing that she created in between each of the blocks, complete with painted stitches!

Margaret’s story was one of many that I heard of a barn quilt being painted as a tribute to a deceased loved one, but Margaret insisted that her husband would have done nothing but grin with delight at seeing it. “He loved his parties,” she told me, “and one of his favorite things to do was to get together with friends. This isn’t just a row of barn quilts. It’s my husband’s block party!”

My three years of travel in writing the book took me from my home in Georgia to far-flung states such as Michigan, New York, and Colorado, and enriched my life tremendously. What’s not to love about a farm-fresh breakfast after sleeping under antique quilts?

Since the book’s publication in February by Ohio University Press, I am on the road again—this time to share the story of the quilt trail with quilt guilds and other groups. Quilters have been so enthusiastic about this new form of “quilting,” and I have been overwhelmed with hospitality everywhere we have visited. Right now the fridge is full of Wisconsin cheese, and there is a jar of farm-fresh maple syrup ready for Sunday’s pancakes!

The cover of the book features a Corn and Beans barn quilt—the most common pattern and a reflection of the two major crops grown across the U.S. This one is in Kankakee, Illinois—a great destination for a barn quilt tour.

For more information on barn quilts or the book, visit Be sure to check out the map; it is amazing to see all of the places that barn quilts have sprung up in only eleven short years.

Thanks again, Sharon, for your hospitality here on your blog. All good things to you!



Sheila said...

Good Morning Sharon,

Thank you so much for having Suzi as a guest blogger today. I am so fascinated with barn quilts. We have a small barn and am planning on putting a block on the side. The hardest part is figuring out which block? I will have to get the book and maybe that will help with my decision.

Have a great week.

Janet O. said...


Linda said...

Hi Sharon,

This was a great post. Thank you! In southern and western Wisconsin their are barn quilts. I am seriously thinking of trying to talk DH into putting one on one of our barns. I will have to take a look at the book.

I am attending a summer school class this week, "Understanding the Autism Spectrum." Interesting title when there is so very much unknown about it.

Carol said...

Thank you so much for such a wonderful post...truly wonderful!

Sue said...

I first saw the barn quilts on my drive from NC to Paducah a couple of years ago.
I wish I had a barn I would paint a basket block on it.

Suzi Parron said...

Thanks for your positive remarks, ladies. I have been having so much fun traveling and sharing the story of the quilt trail now that the book is done.

Sue, you don't have to have a barn! You can have a "house quilt," which is something that is really catching on. Or a fence quilt, garage quilt . . .


Jodi - usairdoll said...

What a great post. I'd love to take a drive and see some of these barn quilts. Can't wait to check out your book.